(Reuters) – Conventional wisdom says the Gangneung Oval’s lack of elevation will make it impossible for any speed skaters to break a world record at the Winter Olympics, but Canadian Mark Messer is hoping to turn that perception on its head.
Speed skaters move so fast over the ice – hitting speeds above 55 kph – that elevation plays a pivotal role in whether a world record can be set, since skaters at lower altitudes have to battle more wind resistance.
All the sport’s current world records were set at high altitude ovals in Salt Lake City and Canada’s Calgary, while the Olympic venue in Gangneung sits just above sea level.
Messer, known as an ‘Ice Master’, has made the ice at four previous Olympics and said records might fall in South Korea.
“Most people say it’s impossible because it’s basically five kilometers from the ocean and it’s also three meters above sea level, so traditionally it would not be the conditions to do it,” he told Reuters from the Calgary Oval.
“(But) I think with people peaking, because everybody trains for four years to come to that one race, if we can make the ice as good as possible there’s an opportunity for some records to be broken.”
Messer made the ice for the Olympic venue at Gangneung at a test event in February at which the skaters hit speeds that were unexpected at sea level.
“One of the world records we missed by less than half a second,” he added. “Some of the other world records we were very, very close to.”
FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
Ice makers use reverse osmosis equipment to produce vast quantities of purified water which is blended with natural water to make ice that will not crack.
“We seem to have a good formula for what we want (in Gangneung),” Messer said. “We used a blend of purified water with a little bit of just natural, domestic water.”
Bart Schouten, a coach with Canada’s Olympic speed skating team, has little doubt about the 57-year-old’s ability to make record-breaking…